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Rugby leaders using ambitious projects to grow sport in Asia

by

Kyodo

On the eve of Wednesday’s draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, organizers are hoping the tournament will spur even more interest in the sport in the world’s largest continent.

With Japan preparing to host Asia’s first Rugby World Cup, and the global game experiencing record participation (8.5 million) and fan-base (300 million) growth, organizers believe even bigger things are on the way.

Participation across Asia has almost doubled since 2009 to more than 500,000 players and a further 610,700 children participated in Get Into Rugby activities in 2016.

Later this month IMPACT Beyond RWC 2019, a project that aims to sustainably support and grow rugby participation, will be launched, targeting one million new players in Asia by the time the World Cup kicks off on Sept. 20, 2019.

“The unique significance and opportunity of hosting Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan lies in further spreading rugby in Asia and ensuring rugby is a truly global sport,” said organizing committee CEO Akira Shimazu.

“We will continue to work with World Rugby and Rugby World Cup Limited to build a robust and sustainable legacy through the successful delivery of Rugby World Cup 2019, the first in Asia.”

Meanwhile, representatives of the 12 teams that have already qualified for RWC 2019 are already doing their bit to promote the sport in the host nation.

Former internationals John Jeffrey, Alastair Kellock and Chris Paterson were among the Scottish delegation that recently hosted over 700 children at coaching clinics and activity sessions in Nagasaki schools over the weekend, while members of the Georgia contingent were in Tokushima.

While Asia is currently the main center of attention for World Rugby, thoughts are already heading toward the 2023 tournament, which France, Ireland and South Africa are all hoping to host.

While in Kyoto, the Rugby World Cup Limited Board will not only review hosting preparation for the 2019 tournament but also the latest from the candidate phase of the 2023 host selection process.

“This is an exciting and defining year for our sport as we look to further the competition and regulatory framework that will provide the platform for rugby to continue to sustainably grow in both established and emerging markets,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

“Set against a backdrop of strong participation and fan growth, we have achieved agreement on a long-term optimized global calendar that provides certainty and stability over the decade beyond Rugby World Cup 2019, which is a major milestone.”